A federal judge largely rejected Toyota Motor Corp's attempts to dismiss personal injury claims brought over sudden unintended acceleration, according to a tentative order posted on Wednesday.
The personal injury cases are proceeding at the same time as a proposed consumer class action over economic loss suffered by people who purchased Toyota vehicles.
Last month U.S. District Judge James Selna similarly kept intact the bulk of the economic loss case.
Toyota claimed that the personal injury plaintiffs failed to offer specific allegations of an actual defect in their vehicles' electronic throttle control system.
But Selna ruled that he "has no trouble" discerning facts that could support a design-defect claim.
Plaintiffs estimate that Selna has jurisdiction over 100 personal injury cases, while the company puts the number closer to 60.
Toyota did not immediately comment on Selna's order.
Lead plaintiff lawyer Elizabeth Cabraser said she expects Selna to finalize his order with few changes, along the lines of his recent ruling on the economic claims.
"I think this tentative is perfectly consistent with his final ruling in economic loss complaint," Cabraser said.
The Japanese carmaker insists its electronic throttles are glitch-free. Toyota has instead acknowledged just two defects as the root cause for its vehicles speeding out of control -- ill-fitting floor mats and sticking gas pedals.
Both problems were addressed earlier this year in safety recalls encompassing 5.4 million U.S. vehicles.
Selna did dismiss one of plaintiffs' theories involving manufacturing defects. His tentative ruling is expected to be discussed at a court hearing Thursday in Santa Ana, California.